Telstra under fire for cashing in on emergency 33



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During an emergency such as bushfire, SMS alerts and recorded-voice messages provide crucial information and can save lives. However, these services come at a cost – and now that cost has been revealed.

Last financial year, Western Australian taxpayers spent just over a million dollars on 231,955 SMS and voice messages during 23 potentially catastrophic emergencies, including the blazes that threatened Perth suburbs last summer.

The cost of each message or voice alert was $4.35.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis says Telstra is morally bound to subsidise the cost of these life-saving messages.

Last month, Mr Francis told parliament Telstra should be providing the text alert service free of charge. His calls echo those of the Victoria government, which is also putting pressure on the telecommunications provider to stop charging State governments to use the potentially life-saving technology.

Australia’s Emergency Alert platform is co-funded by all State and Territory governments. Telstra and Optus charge additional service fees when it is deployed.

Mr Francis, along with shadow emergency services minister, Margaret Quirk, argues that Telstra, which controls the majority of the infrastructure, has a community service obligation to offer the service for no charge.

A Telstra spokesman said the company was committed to public safety, including providing the national triple-0 service, communications services such as land mobile radio networks and Emergency Alert.

The telco has announced today an increase of $1 per month for phone line rental charges to cover network investments. Some call prices will also increase and customers will receive a letter shortly outlining the changes.

Do you think Telstra should subsidise the emergency alert system? Have you ever received one of these alerts?  

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  1. I live in Newcastle, a few years ago we had a flood, at that time I was caught in the middle of the road with a torrent of water streaming around me, it was very cold and it was night time. The water was flowing so fast that when I tried to cross the road I was swept off my feet. A young man from the Emergency Services rushed and and grabbed me before I was swept into the storm water drain. When he got me to safe ground, he got my phone number. Several months ago I got a message from the SES , telling me more bad weather was headed our way. We lost power for days. I am grateful to the SES and I am sure many many Australians are Someone should let Telstra know that if their customers die in natural disasters, no one will be paying any bills at all !!!

    3 REPLY
  2. It would be nice to think Telstra would become a better corporate citizen but I wonder, do we really expect companies to not charge for their services. It seems to me that it is beyond time that we Australians set up a national insurance scheme for disasters. Could be paid via our rates. I am tired of contributing to disaster relief charities when a lot of the folk who are helped do not insure their property. We know this country suffers from droughts, fires and floods so let’s do something nationally to cover this when it happens.

    2 REPLY
    • Fantastic idea. If it was free, all other Telstra customers would be subsidising it. It would need to be drawn up properly ,not rushed through without proper funding . I thought it was being done after Brisbane floods, an Insurance policy was suggested to cover their costs .

  3. I think if the government expects the rural fire fighters and the SES to work for nothing Telstra could shout some free calles.

    1 REPLY
    • No thanks , I am with Telstra AND I am very happy with them, I don’t want my charges to go up. ALL should pay.

  4. It is a really good service, to be forewarned is life saving, but surely it should be free, Telstra wouldn’t go broke.

  5. Why is Telstra the only telco mentioned in this article, the SES like any customer can go to any telco to do their communications. Usually these type of services are on a three year contract and any telco can tender for these services. The telco that supplies the lowest bid wins, at this time it happens to be Telstra in three years it could be Optus or Virgin.

    3 REPLY
    • The trouble with any other service provider is that in the country they can’t provide the service!
      Fine if you live within a moderately large town’s boundaries but a relatively few kilometres outside and that you’re in no man’s land.

    • And telstra own all the lines & infrastructure anyway. The other telcos pay telstra for the right to use it. Telstra also places restrictions on the use, which explains the limited coverage for the other telcos

    • There are no restrictions on any telco to run their own poles and wires or any other infrastructure items. In fact they do so in most capital cities. Also Telstra is not allowed to place any restrictions on any infrastructure item other than those for safety or standard operational procedures. The same rules apply to Telstra as any other telco. The other telco’s do not run their own poles and wires because then they would have to charge the same if not more than Telstra for us to use them.

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